Columbia Woman Shares Empowering Breast Cancer Story
COLUMBIA - The average American woman spends $50,000 on hair in a lifetime, but one local woman realized its not always money well spent.
In 2009, Penny Braun walked into a hair salon to get her head shaved. She had been diagnosed with a very small, yet aggressive form of breast cancer. For some women, the treatments and hair loss are also aggressive.
"When I began to see that I was getting an awful lot of hair in the drain of the shower, I called my beauty shop person and he shaved my head for me so that I wouldn't have to mess with it," said breast cancer patient Penny Braun.
"A woman gets used to her hair obviously," said "The Studio" hair salon owner Terry Robb. "It's her crowning glory and its tough to do that. Its tough to shave a head when you know somebody and have known them that long."
The first glance in the mirror can be a very moving experience. Women can try on wigs at the American Cancer Society to help cope with the process.
"Because more often than not, when a woman comes here she just wants to find something that matches what she has," said American Cancer Society community specialist Ed Johnson. "She doesn't want anybody knowing something is going on with her. Its a very private tumultuous fight."
Penny didn't want to match her old style; she wanted to try something different.
"It was short and kinda spiky and just kinda an energetic looking thing," said Braun.
Penny also found comfort in her support group.
"I think I had an advantage because two other friends of mine were also doing it and at one point all three of us were siting around in our new wigs having lunch together," said Braun.
But, lunch with the girls, all in their new wigs, is not the end of the story.
"Once you have had it, they make sure that you get your mammograms and you are very interested in getting your mammograms, so the second time they said the other breast was involved I thought 'wait a minute you're kidding' and they weren't," said Braun.
She had surgery and will soon begin radiation and chemotherapy with a new drug.
"It works very well for that and its not that toxic, and if it happens to not make all their hair fall out, well that's just an added bonus," said Missouri Cancer Associates Oncologist Mary Muscato, M.D.
Penny says losing her hair again would be annoying, but since it grows back, the loss isn't a tragedy.